Amazing & Extraordinary Facts: Sherlock Holmes
by Nicholas Utechin, JHWS “Rex”
Published by David & Charles, 2012. Available from Amazon $11.00
Amazing & Extraordinary Facts – Sherlock Holmes brings to life the most celebrated fictional character in history, through all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 60 stories, to his transition onto stage, radio, television and the big screen that continues today, along with the actors who have played him. Every aspect of the pipe-smoking, deer stalked character is explored, including his relationships with Dr. Watson, his long-suffering landlady Mrs. Hudson, Scotland Yard detectives, and his nemesis Professor Moriarty, as well as Holmes’ literary and musical tastes, bad habits, and his preferred disguises.Whether you enjoy the stories of Arthur Conan Doyle or the television shows and films that they have inspired, this latest title in the Amazing & Extraordinary Facts series celebrates the timeless detective who continues to be a firm part of popular culture for generations to come.
At about the same time as Jean Upton and I were commissioned to write The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany, Nick Utechin was signing a contract for this volume in the Amazing & Extraordinary Facts series. Inevitably the two books cover much of the same ground, but the treatment and the emphasis in each case are individual. Nick’s approach is broadly chronological, beginning with “The Doyle Family” and concluding with “Holmes in the 21st Century”, and no passage (they aren’t called chapters) is longer than three pages — but nothing is rushed and nothing is too condensed. Among the passages are illuminating snippets about, for instance, the Langham Hotel, portrayals of Mycroft Holmes, and Basil Rathbone’s frustration at being typecast. The very brief observations on each of the sixty stories are pithy, pertinent and sometimes debatable — was the theft of part of the Beryl Coronet not a real crime? And how about the forced marriage of Violet Smith? The writing throughout is, of course, exemplary. I’d never really thought deeply about the effect that the first short story must have had on its readers when it appeared in The Strand Magazine, but Nick Utechin has, and his assessment is masterly. (Watson tells us, though, that Irene Adler was a contralto, not a soprano. And, on a different matter, I’d love to know Nick’s authority for giving Lestrade the first name George.) The illustrations, sadly, don’t match the quality of the text. Otherwise this is as attractive a pocket volume as you could wish — an excellent introduction for the novice with plenty to engage and inform the experienced aficionado.
–Roger Johnson, JHWS “Count”
What a beautiful and very useful book! I had a lot of fun reading it and it is indeed a very useful reference work, both for Sherlockians and newcomers to the universe of Conan Doyle.
I enjoyed all of it, I must say. Although I knew most of the facts (I must confess that I’ve learned some important facts reading this book, which was truly illuminating), it’s great to read a book from beginning to end, like a story in itself, that tell us so much about the Sherlock Holmes Holmes universe and its creator. I particularly enjoyed the references to Conan Doyle’s life and experiences, Utechin’s highly enjoyable one-sentence resumes on the Canon stories and the Sherlock Holmes audio and video Media information.
There are a lot of Sherlock Holmes reference books. Some good, some not so good. This one is great! I’ll keep it close by. I strongly recommend it. Nick Utechin is a truly great sherlockian and his knowledge is an inspiration.
–Nuno Robles, JHWS “Oakley” (Portugal)